Earnest Johnson, Missouri


Update: Tuesday, November 3, 2015,  8:00 pm EDT

Earnest Lee Johnson has been granted a stay of execution by the Supreme Court of the United States. Earnest's attorneys successfully argued that Earnest was at a high risk for experiencing pain and suffering during his execution due to a brain tumor, brain defect, and brain scar. The combination of these ailments and the lethal injection drugs could cause Earnest to have a violent seizure. The Supreme Court has sent the case back to the lower courts to determine if Earnest can be executed using Missouri's current lethal injection protocol without subjecting him to cruel and unusual punishment.

Update: Tuesday, November 3, 2015,  9:03 am EDT

Earnest Lee Johnson's execution is scheduled to occur at 6 pm CST, on Tuesday, November 3, 2015, at the Eastern Reception, Diagnostic, and Corrections Center in Bonne Terre, Missouri. Fifty-five-year-old Earnest is convicted of the murder of 46-year-old Mary Bratcher, 58-year-old Fred Jones, and 57-year-old Mabel Scruggs during a robbery of convince store on February 12, 1994, in Columbia, Missouri. Earnest has spent the last 20 years of his life on Missouri’s death row.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Missouri Supreme Court have both denied requests to stay the execution. Attorneys for Earnest were attempting to argue that he has a brain condition which would likely lead to extreme pain and suffering during his execution, which would violate their client's 8th Amendment right. They have asked that Earnest be executed using gas, which is permitted in Missouri, however, the state does not have a functioning gas chamber. Earnest also has appeals before the Supreme Court of the United States and a request for clemency before Governor Jay Nixon.


Earnest was born to alcoholic parents. His mother drank while she was pregnant with Earnest. His parents did not have a stable relationship and often physically fought. Earnest’s mother burned down the shack where lived twice and his father once chased after his wife, shooting at her. His father had also chased and shot at the children. Earnest and his siblings had an unstable childhood, moving from parents, to relatives, and back to with their parents. Earnest and his siblings were frequently beaten, regardless of where they lived. Earnest was small for his age and frequently made fun of by his classmates. He dropped out of school after the 6th grade. He also did not received medical treatment for any illness or injury, including falling off a wagon and losing consciousness after hitting his head. When living with his mother, Earnest was encouraged to prostitute himself and received drugs and alcohol as a reward, leading to him becoming an addict.


Around 11 am, on Saturday, February 12, 1994, Earnest Johnson visited a convenience store in Columbia, Missouri, purchasing a bottle of beer and a pack of cigarettes. Johnson was a frequent visitor of the store, visiting again, early that afternoon. Johnson did not make a purchase, but did learn that a shift change would occur at 5 pm, and that store would close at 11 pm.


Johnson visited again that afternoon, but again made no purchases. Johnson also appeared during the shift change, with a backpack. He again made no purchases, but appeared to be carefully observing the employee who was leaving placing money in the safe.


After observing the shift change, Johnson went to the home of his girlfriend and purchased a rock of crack cocaine from his girlfriend’s 18-year-old son, Rodriguez Grant. Johnson later purchased two more rocks from Grant and asked to borrow a .25 caliber pistol. The two men fired the weapon in the backyard to ensure it was in working condition. Johnson returned the gun a short time later, claiming it did not work.


However, Johnson later retrieved the weapon and left the home, heading in the direction of the convenience store, wearing layers of clothing, black tennis shoes, and a mask. When Johnson returned to the home, around 11:45 pm, he had blood splatters on his clothing and face. Johnson returned the pistol to Grant, cleaned his shoes, took off his clothes, and told Grant’s brother to dispose of the clothes. Johnson and Grant then counted the large amount of money Johnson had stolen.


Police officers discovered the robbery at 1:12 am, after police received a tip that the store’s lights were still on. They had also had a report of possible violence with weapons at the store. Upon entering, police noticed blood smears on the front door lock. They found two dead bodies in the bathroom and another body, along with a .25 caliber shell casing, in the walk-in cooler. Police also discovered that the safe was empty.


The three victims were all store employees: Mary Bratcher, Fred Jones, and Mabel Scruggs. Each victim was killed by head injuries consistent with a bloody hammer, also found at the scene. In addition, Mary had several stab wounds consistent with a bloody, flat-head screwdriver, found in a nearby field, and Fred had received a nonfatal gunshot wound in the face.


Police quickly focused on Johnson as their suspect. They later discovered that Johnson had been telling Grant since January of 1994, how he would rob a store with multiple employees by locking all but one employee in a back room and forcing one employee to open the store’s safe. Grant’s brother also led police to the clothing and weapon, of which he had been instructed by Johnson to hide.


Lawyers for Ernest Johnson are arguing that he is ineligible to be executed due to his low IQ score. They are also arguing that the partial removal of a brain tumor has left him with severe seizures, which would likely lead to extreme pain suffering during his execution, which would violate Ernest's 8th Amendment right. The drugs used during the lethal injection would also, allegedly, trigger a seizure.


Please pray for peace and healing for the families of Mary Bratcher, Fred Jones, and Mabel Scruggs. Please pray for strength for the family of Earnest Johnson. Please pray that if Earnest is innocent, or lacks the competency to be executed, evidence will be presented prior to his execution. Please pray that Earnest will come to find peace through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, if he has not already found one.



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